The Internet Is Trying To Kill You.

Hokay. So.

I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to say this…but I noticed a kind of disturbing trend with the comments on the last post.

It seems….GASP!…..that “reality” is attempting to intrude into my fiction blog!


There, there. Reality can’t get us in here, as long as we all work together.

Listen, folks. I totally understand how people can have the urge to try and relate some of the things I’m talking about here to their own lives and/or medical problems.

But I’d like to reiterate:




No one’s body actually works 100% like I say it does on this blog. So the concepts I’m talking about are very, VERY generalized and simplified. That’s why it makes me really nervous when people get any medical information from the internet. Not only is some of it inaccurate, most of it is misleading. Just because SOME people’s bodies work in a certain way, it doesn’t mean YOURS does. A ubiquitous saying among clinical instructors is, “patients don’t read the textbooks”. That is to say, people’s bodies don’t all act in the same ways. All we can do is generalize, and hope to whatever deity one chooses to believe in that the basic concepts hold.

They rarely ever hold.

That’s why there are doctors: they are professional pattern-finders playing with really, REALLY fuzzy data.

And that’s why I’m only writing about medicine as it relates to fiction only. Fiction is also very generalized and simplified. And that’s why the stuff I’m talking about can work for fictional situations.

But it doesn’t work for the real world. It’s just not real enough.

But regardless, I recently found myself trying to correct people’s misconceptions about their own medical conditions as they related to one of my blog posts.

This is really, really a dangerous place for me to be, both professionally and intentionally. Professionally because no one can give accurate medical advice over the internet, and intentionally because this blog is supposed to be about USING MEDICINE IN FICTION ONLY.

I’m scared that while I’m not looking, this will turn into a medical blog instead of a writers’ resource.


As much as I adore it when people comment on the blog, and as much as I enjoy listening to you guys talk to each other about the things I’ve put out for consideration….. I’m going to need to lay down a bit of a law.

From here on out, I’m going to delete any comment that has anything to do with anyone’s real-world medical condition. Even if the comment talks about the relating post in a way that is meant to illustrate understanding of the topic (which is what most of these comments seem to be.)

But it’s still important to me to make sure that we’re all talking about WRITING, not necessarily MEDICINE. (I will still be a total hypocrite and occasionally post stories and musings about my experiences as a new doctor, but that’s mostly because I use those posts as a writing-and-sometimes-therapy exercise. And I’ve been told people enjoy those posts.)

So, despite the fact that I’m going to be a hypocrite, please try to refrain from discussing real life in the comments section.

Please still visit the comments section.

Please still talk about the concepts.

But please, please, PLEASE let me keep this blog SOLELY in the realm of fiction!

Thanks so much for understanding, and I’m sorry to be obnoxious about this.

You guys make my day, just about every day. When I’m having a bad day, sometimes just seeing that there’s a new comment to read can be enough to turn my mood around. So I really, really hope that my new policy doesn’t have a chilling effect on the comments thread.

I just have to do this.

Because no one should ever get their medical advice from the internet. Ever.

And yes, that includes the Imaginary Friends blog.

Don’t you dare trust your health to a single word I write.


I’m going to stop babbling now.

Thanks for listening.


Dr. Grasshopper

Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 12:54 am  Comments (25)  

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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Awesome! I’m gonna go shock a flatline RIGHT NOW!

    I totally understand your sentiment, in all seriousness. Besides, for people who REALLY want to diagnose themselves, there’s always

    • Heh, you really want me to shake my fist at you, don’t you?

      Well, fine.

      ::shakes fist::


      • It occurs to me that I was ACTUALLY supposed to threaten to beat you with a wet chicken.

        I was tired that day.

        So I’d like to officially past-date this threat.


        Much better.


  2. Honestly? I think it’s ignorant for a non-doctor NOT to supplement their personal physician or dentist input with facts from high quality medical sites.

    A discerning internet user can tell the difference.

    And it makes for a more meaningful conversation w/your local dr when you’ve done some background learning. But you do have use discretion and not be a PITA.

    I think your strong position stems from the fact that you don’t want to get sued (I understand).

    As far as your new rules, no problem. Your site, your rules. I just wanted to comment on your remark “Because no one should ever get their medical advice from the internet. Ever.”

    Thanks for listening.

    • But you have the key to my response right in what you’ve said:

      HIGH QUALITY websites can be used AS BACKGROUND for understanding a discussion WITH YOUR REAL DOCTOR.

      That is the only place that the internet has in medical advice.

      But I can tell you from experience…no one uses it like that.

      I’m much more likely to be sued by one of my patients than by one of you guys, though. That’s not really what I’m concerned about.

      I’m really worried that someone’s going to print out a copy of one of my posts, and bring it to their doctor. I hate it when people do that.

      And I’m REALLY worried that someone’s going to misinterpret something I say, and hurt themselves or somebody else. That’s what scares me the most.

      Thanks for listening to me, too.

  3. I think you’re right, your discerning regular audience would probably not misuse anything you’ve written, but someone coming in via search … that could be trouble and I do understand your fears in this regard.

    As to the first couple of paras of your response, we’re in violent agreement as they say!

    • I’m a fan of violent agreement. Much better than the half-opposite.

      But I’m also a fan of non-violent disagreement.

  4. No prob Dr.GH.

    I do have a question/suggestion for a post in the future. The idea is based off some disorder/disease I heard about on NPR called idiopathic something something. They said idiopathic means nobody knows what causes it.

    I was wondering what needs to happen for something to get idiopathic label, is it an official board or organization that names that? How does that work? Also, do you know of any etymology of idiopathic that could be useful interesting.

    Thanks – your posts are awesome.

    • You can pretty much label anything as “idiopathic”. It’s an adjective like “nosocomial” (hospital-acquired) or “iatrogenic” (caused by medical treatment).

      I’ve definitely accused at least one of my brothers of suffering from idiopathic stupidity. As in, “I have no idea how you could be THAT stupid!”

      (Ah, siblings.)

      So, etymology:

      “idio-” means “personal, one’s own”, and “pathos” is feeling or suffering or disease.

      I guess I don’t know what the link is, necessarily. I imagine that it’s something like this: the disease looks like it causes itself, since no other cause can be found.

      But don’t quote me on that.

      Anyway, gives me flashbacks to my philosophy days, and the concept of the “unmoved mover”. So I think I’m going to run away now!


  5. I promise. If I ever come to you for free doctor advice over the internet, it will not be via this blog! Go Grasshopper! Go!

  6. hi there hows it going

  7. No problem Doctor G. Understand why you need to have strict lines on this kind of thing. If it was as easy as looking something up online, we wouldn’t need doctors!

  8. This is why I could never go into medicine.

    It drives me NUTS when people grossly misinterpret scientific fact, particularly in my field, because they think that skimming Scientific American makes them an expert on, say, black holes. (If I have to have the “black holes are not cosmic vacuum cleaners” conversation ONE MORE TIME…)

    But the point is that when they do so, nobody gets hurt. Furthermore, when I myself forget some fact or process, I only get embarrassed. I have a lot of admiration for people who are willing to put more than just their dignity on the line in the course of their job every day. I know I couldn’t do it.

    • Wait, wait.

      Are you trying to say that black holes are NOT cosmic vacuum cleaners?!!!!


      And you know what? I couldn’t teach math. Just couldn’t do it.

      Your awesomeness overwhelms me sometimes.

  9. Doctor, it’s my brother, he thinks he’s a chicken
    -Bring him in, I’ll see what I can do
    I would, but I need the eggs.

    But seriously. In my novel, a character gets stung (bitten?) by a black widow spider on the forearm. And I have some pretty good information on what his reactions are. But when he gets to the ER, he gets an epinepherine shot, and an antivenin shot. Which would they give first? And what would the epinepherine feel like?

    Thanks. And, yes, totally fictional. I swear.

    • My guess? Epinephrine first, since it acts counter to life-threatening physiological reactions such as angioedema (mouth and throat swelling up), etc. Then the antivenin to remove the source of the reaction. Probably one right after the other.

      But that’s just a guess.

      I’ve never had an epi shot; I have no idea what it would feel like.

  10. Dr. Grasshopper,

    Well, I guess that means your readers will just have to do without the cute story involving me as a teenage fainter.

    Seriously, though, I agree with you. I’m a librarian. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to tell a patron (usually an irate patron) that I could not and would not tell him or her what to do about a medical problem, I could have a fancy dinner with several friends on the proceeds.

    I get asked for legal advice a lot, too, especially right before April 15.

    Helping people find information is my profession. A well-informed pateint ought to be easier for the doctor too, I’d think. But for pity’s sake, people, do see the doctor. Don’t just scare yourself silly, which is what many do.

    Could you do a post sometime on just how much individual cases can vary? Might be some valuable fictional uses for that. Also valuable to yr humble servant, the librarian.


    • Man, Jane, it never occurred to me how much librarians would deal with this same problem! But that makes lots and lots of sense.

      And I don’t really know how much I can say about individual cases varying. People are huge, complex organisms. And even though some patterns of illness happen frequently enough that we can point to them and say that they have a name, every single person is different. They have different risk factors, genetic predispositions, immune systems, sensitivity to pain, abilities to metabolize certain molecular compounds in drugs, etc, etc, etc. They all have other diseases going on that put another layer of multiplicative variables on top of that.

      So, basically….individual cases are individual. That’s why doctors are around…to find patterns and help interpret them so they can apply to whoever is sitting on the exam table.

      • Actually, what you’ve written above is helpful. Thanks for setting out the problem so clearly.


  11. I love that this blog is about fictional medicine – it’s what I’ve been looking for for years! (When you do the nasty things I do to my characters, it’s nice to know it’s realistic!)

    Me, I’ve got a great doctor, but he doesn’t have time in our sessions to chat about my fictional ideas. I’m sure few doctors have that kind of time at work. Especially around here, where we have a shortage of doctors.

    Which is why this blog is perfect. I can talk to someone about my *characters’* ailments, not my own. And get some insight into how to make them hurt more– I mean, how to make it realistic. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks so much for this blog, Doc!

    • I’m so, SO glad you like this, BJ! I set out to write it specifically for people like you.

      And on my end, it’s so much fun combining my two careers. Well, my one-and-a-half careers. Or, my one career and my back-burner-ed career.


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